How to Cook Bok Choy 小白菜,上海白菜,小棠菜,油菜,青江菜

This How to Cook Bok Choy article talks about the confusing varieties and names for bok choy. Learn how to clean, cook, grow them. 

Bok choy is ubiquitous in Singapore. It is one of the easiest vegetables to prepare and eat. The stems are sweet, succulent and mild tasting. When I do not know what to eat or buy, I invariably fall back on the trusty bok choy.

Bok choy is a Cantonese transliteration, so is pak choy. The Chinese pronunciation is bai cai. It is a general term used to refer to all the different variations. 

Varieties of bok choy from left to right - regular bok choy, Shanghai bok choy, and baby bok choy

Other common names include Chinese white cabbage and Chinese chard. Chinese names also abound. In Taiwan it is known as 青江菜 (qing jiang cai), in Hong Kong it is 上海白菜 (shang hai bai cai), 上海青 (shang hai qing) and 小棠菜 (xiao tang cai) or 油菜 (you cai) in Mainland China. 

It belongs to a very large vegetable species known as Brassica Rapa. Its scientific name is Brassica rapa chinensis. It has crispy succulent stems and mild tasting oval-shaped green leaves. In the case of 上海白菜 (shang hai bai cai), the leaves are dark green and slightly crinkly.

Growing up in Singapore, the 上海青 (shang hai qing) also known as baby bok choy is the most common variety. With better global supplies, I see more varieties of bok choy including the white bok choy in the markets. Understandably, it is also more expensive than its local cousin.

Bok choy is a low-carb vegetable

Do you know that bok choy is considered a low carb vegetable? The total carb count for 70g or 1 cup of raw bok choy is 9 calories, 1.05g protein, 1.53g carbohydrates, and 0.7g of dietary fiber. 

How to cook bok choy

Bok choy are commonly used in soups. It is sometimes an after-thought. We make a clear quick soup and need something to bulk it up. Oh, throw in some bok choy! It can literally work with any soup. Broth, creamy, laksa, curry, etc.

Consider the recipes at the bok choy soup recipes page

It is also frequently stir-fried. On its own with a little garlic and salt, or with proteins like chicken and pork. If you are a vegetarian, you can try stir-frying with firm pressed tofu or Chinese mushrooms.

It can also be used in steamed rice, and made into elaborate dishes. The spoon-shaped leaves can be arranged into flowers or fans. 

Take a look at this collection of bok choy recipes for ideas. 

How to clean bok choy

Bok choy grow very close to the ground, so they are prone to soil trapped between the stems. Thorough soaking and cleaning are a must.  

Cleaning techniques depends on their size and how they are going to be used. 

For baby bok choy that are going to be cooked whole, soak them in a large basin of water first. Wash the leaves and in between the stems to dislodge soil and dirt. Soak again in a fresh basin of water. Use this same technique if halving the bok choy.  

For stir-frying or soup, break off individual stems from the root. Then, separate the stems from the leaves. Depending on the size of the bok choy, the stems may be halved. Individual stems can then be soaked and washed. 

The bottoms can be sliced off with a knife but I find that wasteful. Every part of the bok choy can be eaten.  

How to grow bok choy

Bok choy are also quite easy and quick to grow. The seeds sprout within 3 to 4 days. Baby bok choy should be ready for harvest in 30-45 days. You can grow them in the ground or in containers. They should be harvested timely. By the time flowers appear, they will be too bitter and tough. 

See the following videos on how to grow them in your garden or balcony. 

This gardener starts off a detailed explanation of how to plant and repot the seedings. His bok choy is huge!.

This gardener uses large coca cola bottles to grow bok choy. Quite interesting. You can consider this if you don't have a garden.  

This gardener has an allotment. I like the way he spaced out the bok choy neatly in rows. 

Buy some seeds and try it out. 

I hope you find this article on How to cook bok choy useful. Don't forget to visit these 2 recipe collections: 

Happy Souping, Phoebe